How This Smartphone App Could Make Roads Safer To Drive

January 7, 2016

6:00 pm

Driving and smartphones don’t have a good relationship. Whenever the two are placed in the same sentence it’s usually to warn drivers about the irrefutable danger of using your smartphone behind the wheel. It is, therefore, refreshing to hear a positive news story about smartphones and driving as a new app is making the road a safer place to use than ever before.

The app is called DriveWell and it has been developed by Cambridge Mobile Telematics. Based on years of research at MIT – the company’s founders are both MIT professors who went on to be entrepreneurs – it has been made to run in the background on your phone and analyze the way you drive. Simply keep it in your pocket or on the passenger seat and DriveWell collects data about the speed you are going and how smoothly you are traveling. It provides its user with a score from 1 to 100.

DriveWell also takes into account whether you interact with the device while you are driving – something which the United Kingdom’s Driver And Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) found is one of the most common distractions for road users.

On its own DriveWell doesn’t sound particularly groundbreaking, enhancing the same technology that has been used in fitness and health apps for the last few years. DriveWell starts to become exciting, however, when the data is used by third parties.

The app has already been endorsed by a number of car insurance companies who will use the data DriveWell collects to offer rewards to road users it proves to be safe. This could have a monumental effect on overall road safety. For instance, someone who abides by the road laws and operates a vehicle safely may receive cheaper car insurance because they have the data to show they are a considerate, reliable driver. It incentivizes safe driving by providing financial discounts for those who receive good scores from DriveWell. This will be particularly useful among young people for whom car insurance is very expensive.

In South Africa, a country which has some of the highest statistics for traffic related fatalities in the world, one insurance provider held a safe-driving competition via the app to find the best road user in the country. The winner could receive a trip to the Monaco Grand Prix as the top prize. The aim was to encourage safe, considerate driving.

In two weeks alone, 40 to 50 percent of the riskiest drivers who partook in the competition stopped speeding. Almost half of all the participants in the competition also reduced their fast cornering and dramatic braking. The same downward trend was seen for people interacting with their smartphone while driving too.

DriveWell is an inspiring example of how its two entrepreneur’s simple (arguably not entirely unique) idea has morphed into something that is making roads safer and helping keep vehicle costs low, all by working with those in their respective industry to use technology for the betterment of customers and businesses alike.

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Daniel Sarath is a writer who has contributed to Yahoo, Lifehack and many more. He also writes for the technology website Number Direct where he regularly discusses the latest innovations, covers the biggest breaking news and shares his predictions for the future.